Director, Community Engagement
Varnessa McCray is the Director of Community Engagement for The Children’s Movement of Florida. She is responsible for implementing and overseeing The Future Project and assisting in enhancing the early learning system and experiences for children, parents, caregivers, educators, and early learning advocates throughout the state of Florida.
As a Miami native, Varnessa was raised in the Florida City and Homestead areas, where she learned early on the importance of having appropriate resources and support. She also witnessed how the lack of resources and support can adversely impact and affect a child, a parent, a caregiver, a family, and, in turn, a community. Through her mother’s generosity, beliefs, and values, Varnessa developed a heart for children and families and wanted to help them, even as a child herself. Her early years would later shape and cultivate a desire to work with families in different capacities to help them meet their varying needs and live full lives.
Varnessa begin her post-secondary education studying Accounting as she has a love for numbers. However, she did not feel a “spark” there and switched her major to Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, where her interest and passion were quickly ignited as she felt “at home” in this field of study. She holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences from the University of Florida. Over her collegiate years, Varnessa served many different families from her bio-family, community, and church in many capacities, including as a trusted caregiver for their children. With her interest in wanting to see families thrive and her love for cooking, during her graduate studies, she created an EDIS publication titled “Benefits of Family Meals” to help promote positive education, health, and relationships through family mealtime. In 2013, Varnessa embarked on a career in child welfare. She was a dependency case manager from 2013-2016, where she worked hands-on with children and families to help alleviate issues and concerns that brought them into the care of the Department of Children and Families. She helped to ensure they were engaged in treatment and services to help them successfully exit the dependency system and/or reach permanency. Varnessa then worked as a Placement Specialist from 2016-2023, where she built relationships with foster parents and providers as she matched children with safe and appropriate families, group homes, and other placement settings.
Varnessa lives in Gainesville, Florida, where she remained after earning her degrees. She enjoys traveling, cooking and baking, and spending quality time creating memories with friends and family. She does not have any children of her own as of yet; however, she has a host of youth in her life that she loves, cares for, and treats as her own.